Not enough homes are being built in the UK to meet needs, while a small number of volume house-builders deliver quantities of generic housing in chunks as long as the market is booming. But what happens when people get together and think about what they need - rather than what the house-builders want to give them? Can we re-prioritise liveability over short-term profit? In other countries, it is relatively common for people to build their own homes and for self-provision to represent a viable procurement route for housing.
Carried out in collaboration with the architecture school of the University of Sheffield, our practice-based research project presented a model for how people in the UK might engage collectively in the production of housing and demonstrated that the aspiration of building your own home is not just for the well-off. The outcome was a report, Motivating Custom Build, and an animated website http://www.collectivecustombuild.org/, which provides a rich and lively online resource for people who want to get together and build their own homes.
A close-up detail of the facade at the entrance to one of the upper apartments. Profiled translucent fibreglass back by silver foil, with strands of electrical cable in the interstices. Chain link fencing surrounds each upper flat's terrace.
Being briefed to produce two-bedroom apartments, each measuring just 67m², precipitated a re-appraisal of the spatial priorities of the traditional small flat, which resulted in an unconventional but extremely workable configuration.
The dwellings are identically arranged around an enlarged hallway where the space is both light and complex - anything but a corridor. It is large enough to hold a desk or daybed, a place to sort laundry or an area for children to play.
Bedrooms are kept as small as possible. Clothes, for example, are stored elsewhere. While the kitchen is the main social space of the flat, the living room is a cosy (with)-drawing room that can also be a home office or guest room.
Bathrooms and WCs are separate. Each is spacious, has a large basin and an opening window.
The plan above was made at competition stage.
The corrugated cladding set against silver foil creates lavender and turquoise reflections. In the corrugation's interstices are suspended twisted strands of black and white electrical cabling, adding to the kinetic parallax illusion created as one passes the buildings - an effect developed by Ash Sakula in collaboration with the artist Vinita Khanna.
A few weeks after the residents moved in we received this painting from the Brewer family. It said, "Thank you for our incredible home." In an accompanying letter the Brewers wrote, "... we have never seen anything better designed for us as a family. Thank you for all your thoughtful hard work."
Animators Wrench & Franks made a short video of the project. Here is a still from the closing sequence.
Architect: Ash Sakula
Cristina Cerulli, Fionn Stevenson and Sam Brown - School of Architecture, University of Sheffield
Home Improvements Knowledge Exchange
David Birkbeck - Design for Homes Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Web Design: Sam Brown with Hush
Animation: Ash Sakula with Wrench & Franks